Posted by psgels on 25 September 2010 with categories: Anime Reviews

A few weeks ago we had this discussion on the shoutbox about Berserk. I was really looking forward to it, but people were saying that it did not hold up, compared to its manga. And fair enough, the anime is only 25 episodes long, while the manga has been running since 1990 and still hasn’t finished, meaning that there was no way for the anime to be able to completely tell a story that wouldn’t conclude, even thirteen years after its airdate. The original manga of Berserk also seems to be one of the most well received mangas out there.

The thing is though, and most people who have been reading this blog for a while have been very much aware of this, but I’m terrible at reading manga. Blame a lack of time, but series like Blade of the Immortal, Bokura no, Himitsu Top Secret, Pandora Hearts: I loved all of them despite being somehow unable to just grab and check out their respective mangas. Even though some of them made huge changes and none of them get to the real meat of their source material, I’m still a huge fan of them as standalone, albeit very incomplete stories, based on manga that are God knows how good. I’ve been stuck at the Bokura no’s thirtieth chapter for years now, despite it being awesome just like its anime counterpart.

In any case, Berserk is the same: ridiculously incomplete, ending with one ridiculous hell of a cliff-hanger, but it’s also a ridiculously well executed anime.

I t really immediately sets itself apart from all of the other fantasy series that were spread across the nineties. The atmosphere is dark and gritty, it doesn’t try to glorify its battles (this series is completely brutal when it needs to be, and never tries to hide it), and the battles themselves are very well drawn, detailed and animated. The series quickly stars focusing on battles on a larger and larger scale, and yet the series consistently stays many levels of believability above what you’d usually expect in series that focus on medieval warfare.

What really sold me to Berserk was its character-development, though. Even though I have no idea how good the character-development in the manga must be, the anime really makes excellent use of its time to put as much meaning as possible into its three main characters. The plot is entirely meant to explore them, push them forwards to their goals, and get the best out of their characters while remaining perfectly paced so that each event flows into the other.

As a contrast though, the rest of the cast pales in comparison. They’re mostly static and really not the most interesting. There are unfortunately a lot of episodes that focus on them, and I feel that this series would have been even better when it made its characters, especially the people who end up on the other end of Guts’ blade, a bit more down to earth and give them a bit more character, rather than having Guts kill the same hordes of punching bags over and over again.

Really though, just for Guts, Casca and Griffith I’m really glad to have watched this series. It’s really one of the most mature action titles out there, both with its gore and the way it uses this gore to look at its characters. As for the ending… I don’t think I really need to describe in how many ways it gave us the middle-finger, but I nevertheless consider this series to have an amazing finale.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Slow, but very solid, and absolutely brutal when it needs to be.
Characters: 9/10 – The side characters are nothing special. The main characters are wonderfully developed, though, with a lot of meaning put into them.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Gorgeous artwork from the nineties. Plus, its soundtrack was composed by Susumu Hirasawa.
Setting: 8/10 – A detailed look into medieval warfare, but ridiculously incomplete.

Shin Mazinger Shougeki! Z-Hen

20 Responses

  1. DmonHiro says:

    Hey, Miura: FU. Stop playing IdolMaster PLEASE!!!

  2. kuromitsu says:

    Sometimes I think I’m the only person who thinks the anime is not incomplete. Yes, we don’t know how Gatts will battle Griffith/Femto afterwards, we don’t know if he ever defeats him, etc. But that wasn’t the point of the anime. The anime was about the relationship between Gatts and Griffith, and Gatts story, from having nothing to finding and having things, and losing them again, friendship turning into hatred, and so on. It doesn’t even end with a cliffhanger: the last episode is actually the first one. I personally don’t even care what happened afterwards. In the light of what the anime was about it’s utterly irrelevant.

  3. YotaruVegeta says:

    This anime is excellent. I wish the rumors about a remake/continuation were true. I will be reading the manga regardless.

    I think that this is not an anime that will turn off younger anime fans. It’s got a 90s look, which will not turn people away as much as earlier decades would.

    Even if the look was jarring to younger fans, the content is so engaging that you can’t help but be sucked in.

    It’s ESSENTIAL anime, people! :)

  4. Anca says:

    About the manga: the only detail really missing is that Gutts (I don’t think it counts as a spoiler) had been raped as a child.

    Other than that… Griffith’s torture and rescue had been much more underwhelming in the manga, and the climax gore-fest was much much more gory. Oh, and the Caska/Gutts sex scene was a lot more unnecessarily extended.

    The anime covered what was best of the manga, imho, and your score is perfect.

  5. Frost says:

    This, along with Claymore, are the 2 series which need remakes the most when the manga ends.. And I cant wait for that

  6. pricklypete says:

    Just like Kuromitsu said above Berserk is not incomplete. It successfully brings the viewer full circle back to the beginning, especially if you watch the final scene after the credits. Anyways good review glad to see you give Berserk the respect it deserves. Although imo its worth at least a 90.

  7. Roldan says:

    Yeah, great anime. you gotta check out the abridged series also, it’s great.

    btw, you might have noticed it but Guin Saga was one of the inspirations when Miura made Berserk.

  8. Puran says:

    I always liked the ending of Berserk. It’s incomplete yeah, but you can sum it up as :

    “all hell broke loose (quite literally) and everything got fucked up, THE END”

    and that’s an awesome ending in my book :)

    The only bad thing is the first episode and that final epilogue-ish shot. If those two things were missing I could very successfully pretend that berserk is a complete anime.

  9. tomtom says:

    They at least chose the strongest part of the manga to animate. The rest of the manga consist mostly of guts vs. the evil monsters (don’t get me wrong, it’s still spectacular and awesome but not AS good as the story-arc covering his youth).

  10. darkerthanblackswordsman says:

    Best. Anime. Ever. (if you hadn’t already guessed from my nickname).

    Though I agree with most people that the manga is indeed better, I still think the anime made pretty much all the right decisions (except the first episode which should have been cut completely). The ending may not be “complete” but honestly, the story of The Band of the Hawk is finished – what comes after is awesome, but very different in every way except character-development. The only other fault I have this series is the animation, but hard to blame an old series for that. It’s just that this is just an area where the manga excels to a degree that can be haunting…

  11. synkronized says:

    “As for the ending… I don’t think I really need to describe in how many ways it gave us the middle-finger, but I nevertheless consider this series to have an amazing finale.”
    I chuckled pretty hard at that. Definitely a big F you to the viewer. Mainly because Berserk the Anime is the prequel/gaiden to the Berserk story proper. Though if you want the definition of “Rock bottom” I think Guts life story is a good synonym.

  12. anon says:

    I completely agree that the Berserk anime is great on its own, even while the manga is better still. It tells the story of the Golden Age and the background of the main trio beautifully. As for other characters being static – let’s consider that they all die in the end, and the fact that (and this is established in episode 1) the whole anime is essentially a prequel to “current events”. I think there’s not much room for other characters to grow. Plus, Berserk has always been about Guts and Griffith first and foremost (much more character development for side characters happens later on in the manga, though).

    I’m not so sure about your score with regards to production values, though. There are many, many still frames in Berserk, more so than in any other nineties anime that I’ve watched.

  13. Pax says:

    All fans of epic dark fantasy should watch this, actually if you like anime and epic dark fantasy there really is no other anime to watch…maybe Juuni Kokuki.
    So you gave this 9/10 for Production Values. Yeah the soundtrack was great but I think there were way too many still frames during the battles. If Cowboy Bebop does not get 10/10 at this category I will definitely find that very suspicious lol

    “The thing is though, and most people who have been reading this blog for a while have been very much aware of this, but I’m terrible at reading manga. Blame a lack of time…”
    Well, you need a lot less time reading all the Berserk volumes available than you need to watch the anime. By any chance, do you not like reading novels? I noticed that many people who don’t read books also don’t really care for manga.

  14. YotaruVegeta says:

    Claymore, which is basically a successor to Berserk as far as big sword fantasy goes, disappointed me in the way it depicted action. There was too little actual choreographed fighting compared to all the sword slash images that took the place of action.

    Like Berserk, Claymore does a good job of making a flashback story worth watching; Berserk does it better.

    I wasn’t totally on-board Claymore until we learn of Teresa of the Faint Smile and Clare’s origin.

  15. ManuOtaku says:

    I have watched tons of anime, and let me tell you there is not better first opening episode than this one, it leaved me wanted for more and i did it watched in 2 days, i dont read manga becuase i dont like to read books never like it in fact, i more visual that is what i do like anime better,for that i hope the rumors for the continuation of this series turns true, it is a great series that deserves an ending, in the anime version, and also claymore of course 8D.

    It is a very dark series with great story

  16. escaru says:

    This was probably the best time to watch this, since a new anime project for Berserk was just announced.

  17. Darknives says:

    First, I’m a really fan of the Berserk manga.

    Now about the anime, it’s really nice, how could it not be? It’s like the manga but animated. The only “problem” is that it just tells the beginning of the manga and then stops as things are rising to the next level.

    It’s kinda like Gantz’ first season. Although they did screw that one with the second season.

    I just hope, for this two shows, since they are already getting a little old, someone takes them and does the same thing they did with Fullmetal, a new, high production show that follows the manga.

    At least Gantz will probably happen soon, if the live-action movie does well.

  18. Souther says:

    Berserk’s ending is one of those that suffers from a lack of contextual closure, for obvious reasons, because the ongoing manga remains unfinished and the creators behind the anime adaptation didn’t try to come up with an original conclusion…but it still worked in thematic terms. I believe it was, all in all, a better solution than what Claymore ended up doing in a similar situation.

    Now that a new animated continuation seems to be on the horizon, I hope we are finally able to see some of the more interesting and exciting parts of the manga come alive.

  19. YotaruVegeta says:

    Well, I’m happy that this blog post is old news. WE HAVE NEW BERSERK COMING!

    I just hope they get the same artists to do the music, or uphold the same spirit of the soundtrack, because it’s part of what makes the anime incredible.

  20. Badesh says:

    They did! Super awesome Soundtrack, strong visual effects, brutal & fast action scenes but almost NO story & chara developement. i really wish they had done another anime series with 72+ episodes like naoki urasawas monster.

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  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Nov 25. 2015 07:58 AM)
    @Aidan: Something always feels off to me when you criticize clannad, I mean I’m critical enough of key these days too but it seems odd that you rank it as an 8 on MAL when you’ve always made it sound its more of a high 6 or a 7.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Nov 25. 2015 03:45 AM)
    But I’m no fan of gung-ho soldier games/most fps games so I am glad clannad, a visual novel outsold call of duty.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Nov 25. 2015 03:44 AM)
    I said it once I’ll say it again. I preferred the clannad movie over the tv series, had more style, a more mature feel to it and cut out all the superfluous arcs/comedy for the better. It also concludes better than the series. The emotional involvement in the kyoani version doesn’t work for me anymore, doesn’t hold up. However the film remains emotionally engaging after revisiting it.
  • AidanAK47
    (Wednesday, Nov 25. 2015 03:19 AM)
    Holy hell Clannad is selling like hotcakes on Steam. Even beat Call of Duty in sales at one point.
    Kinda happy to see a VN get recognised and it would help open up the market for more titles to come over. But..well..Clannad really isn’t all that great.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Wednesday, Nov 25. 2015 02:29 AM)
    I can remember when I first got into anime when I was a whole lot younger I always said I would watch lodoss war, El Hazard and slayers, yet I never ended up doing so…
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Nov 24. 2015 05:34 AM)
    Ha, the child in me would love to see a film like that I’d imagine, when I was young I was pretty crazy about Egyptian supernatural stuff.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Nov 24. 2015 05:23 AM)
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, Nov 24. 2015 05:22 AM)
    @Kaiser: yeah, even tho it was his highest grossing movie it managed to brought his career to a stand-still. His next film Gods of Egypt looks like it could be fun, albeit it’s just as much as a CGIfest as I, Robot. Egyptian stuff is admittedly rather intriguing, I remember a 2004 French film Immortel ad vitam that blended that with modern themes that became popular for a while.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Nov 24. 2015 04:50 AM)
    *remove second and
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Tuesday, Nov 24. 2015 04:50 AM)
    @Bam: Regarding dark city, such a shame the director of that followed up dark city and the crow and with Irobot.

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